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Timeline Event

Nirnaeth Arnoediad: 5th Battle of Beleriand

Meaning: Battle of Unnumbered Tears

Event Type: Military/Strategic

Age: 1st Age

Dates: June 21, 0472 ~ June 26, 0472

Description:

Table of Contents:

Summary
The Combatants
— Attacking Forces
— Defensive Forces
The Timeline
The Prelude
The Battle
The Aftermath
Etymology
Summary

The name Nirnaeth Arnoediad is variously used by Tolkien to refer to the entire battle, or only the most intense part of the battle beginning four days after midsummer's day and lasting through nightfall on the sixth day.

The Battle was a doomed endeavor as Morgoth had learned the Elven plan in advance by treachery. Thus, two pronged attack could not be carried out as Maedhros had planned. After six days of battle the Union of Maedhros was broken; few of the Men survived, Fingon was killed, Azaghâl, Lord of the Dwarves of Belegost was killed. Because some Men fought on the side of Morgoth, suspicion was sown between Men and Elves.

Turgon, most of the Elves of Gondolin, and the Feänorians survived.


The Combatants

Attacking Forces

"Maedhros, having gathered all the strength that he could of Elves and Men and Dwarves, resolved to assault Angband from east and west…"

The Silmarillion, Quenta Silmarillion, Ch 20, Of The Fifth Battle: Nirnaeth Arnoediad

The Attackers were postioned East and West of Angband. The plan was for the East forces to attack openly and draw out Morgoth's army, at which point the West forces would attack and crush the enemy between two armies.

Summary of Forces

East Force:
Maedhros and his brothers, and their forces
The Naugrim of Belegost, with their lord Azaghâl
Men of Bór and Ulfang and their kinfolk

West Force:
Fingon and his host
Elves of the Falas
Gwindor from Nargothrond with a small company
Mablung and Beleg from Doriath
The Men of Haleth, under Haldir
The Men of Dor-lómin under Húrin, with Huor his brother.
Turgon with a host of 10,000, and his captains Glorfindel and Ecthelion


Description of Forces

East Forces:

" Maedhros, having gathered all the strength that he could of Elves and Men and Dwarves, resolved to assault Angband from east and west; and he purposed to march with banners displayed in open force over Anfauglith.

"…Maedhros had the help of the Naugrim, both in armed force and in great store of weapons…"

"… the Naugrim withstood fire more hardily than either Elves or Men, and it was their custom moreover to wear great masks in battle … and those stood them in good stead against the dragons…"

The Silmarillion, Quenta Silmarillion, Ch 20, Of The Fifth Battle: Nirnaeth Arnoediad

"A warlike race of old were all the Naugrim, and they would fight fiercely against whomsoever aggrieved them…"

Ch 10The Silmarillion, Quenta Silmarillion, Ch 10, Of the Sindar

"…the Men of Bór and Ulfang were marshalled and trained for war, and they summoned yet more of their kinsfolk out of the East…."

The Silmarillion, Quenta Silmarillion, Ch 20, Of The Fifth Battle: Nirnaeth Arnoediad

"… These Men were short and broad, long and strong in the arm; their skins were swart or sallow, and their hair was dark as were their eyes. …The sons of Bór were Borlad, Borlach, and Borthand; and they followed Maedhros and Maglor, and cheated the hope of Morgoth, and were faithful. The sons of Ulfang the Black were Ulfast, and Ulwarth, and Uldor the accursed; and they followed Caranthir and swore allegiance to him, and proved faithless."

The Silmarillion, Quenta Silmarillion, Ch 18, Of the Ruin of Beleriand and the Fall of Fingolfin

West Forces:

"Fingon looked out from the walls of Eithel Sirion, and his host was arrayed in the valleys and the woods upon the east of Ered Wethrin, well hid from the eyes of the Enemy; but he knew that it was very great. For there all the Noldor of Hithlum were assembled, together with Elves of the Falas and Gwindor's company from Nargothrond, and he had great strength of Men: upon the right were the host of Dor-lómin and all the valour of Húrin and Huor his brother, and to them had come Haldir of Brethil with many men of the woods."

From Nargothrond "came only a small company, following Gwindor son of Guilin, a very valiant prince; and against the will of Orodreth he went to the northern war, because he grieved for the loss of Gelmir his brother in the Dagor Bragollach."

" … Thingol … went not to war, nor any out of Doriath save Mablung and Beleg, who were unwilling to have no part in these great deeds. To them Thingol gave leave to go, so long as they served not the sons of Fëanor; and they joined themselves to the host of Fingon."

"… unsummoned and unlooked for Turgon had opened the leaguer of Gondolin, and was come with an army ten thousand strong, with bright mail and long swords and spears like a forest."

Turgon's host also contained "his captains Ecthelion and Glorfindel."

"…and the Gondolindrim were strong and clad in mail, and their ranks shone like a river of steel in the sun…."

The Silmarillion, Quenta Silmarillion, Ch 20, Of The Fifth Battle: Nirnaeth Arnoediad


Those who did not fight:

"Yet the oath of Fëanor and the evil deeds that it had wrought did injury to the design of Maedhros, and he had less aid than should have been."

"Orodreth would not march forth at the word of any son of Fëanor, because of the deeds of Celegorm and Curufin…"

"the Elves of Nargothrond trusted still to defend their hidden stronghold by secrecy and stealth."

"From Doriath came little help. For Maedhros and his brothers, being constrained by their oath, had before sent to Thingol and reminded him with haughty words of their claim, summoning him to yield the Silmaril, or become their enemy."

The Silmarillion, Quenta Silmarillion, Ch 20, Of The Fifth Battle: Nirnaeth Arnoediad

None of the Green-elves fought in this battle, and only the Sindar specifically named.

Most of the warriors of the folk of Bëor had perished in the Fourth Battle of Beleriand, the Battle of Sudden Flame (Dagor Bragollach).


Defensive Forces

"…Morgoth, who knew much of what was done and designed by his enemies… sent a force seeming great (and yet but part of all that he had made ready) towards Hithlum; and they were clad all in dun raiment and showed no naked steel, and thus were already far over the sands of Anfauglith before their approach was seen."

"By many secret doors in Thangorodrim Morgoth had let issue forth his main host that he held in waiting…"

"There came wolves, and wolfriders, and there came Balrogs, and dragons, and Glaurung father of dragons. The strength and terror of the Great Worm were now great indeed…"

"…ranks of the Orcs…"

"Gothmog, Lord of Balrogs, high-captain of Angband," with "the troll-guard of Gothmog…"

" …evil Men … that Uldor had summoned and kept hidden in the eastern hills…"

"…the Men of … Ulfang were marshalled and trained for war, and they summoned yet more of their kinsfolk out of the East…."

The Silmarillion, Quenta Silmarillion, Ch 20, Of The Fifth Battle: Nirnaeth Arnoediad


The Timeline

468 Maedhros forms the Union of Maedhros
469 Maedhros makes the first trial of his strength. The orcs are driven out of Beleriand, and Dorthonion is freed. Morgoth sends spies among the allies.

472
June 21 Midsummer's Day The assault on Angband begins. Fingon's forces are massed and Turgon's army arrives unexpectedly. Morgoth's initial force strikes out for Hithlum.
June 21 - 23 Maedhros's forces are delayed by treachery. The host of Fingon at first holds fast, awaiting the signal. They are tempted into battle prematurely. Although initially successful, penetrating to the stairs of Angband, Gwindor and the Elves of Nargothond are slain.
June 23 or 24 Morgoth sends out his main host.
June 24 Fingon's army retreats. Many Men of Brethil, including Haldir, are slain. Although in other places Tolkien uses the term to mean the entire battle, here he writes, "on the fourth day of the war, there began Nirnaeth Arnoediad, Unnumbered Tears."
June 25 By nightfall the host of Hithlum is surrounded by Orcs. They battle through the night.

June 26
Slightly before 9:00 AM midmorning Turgon's forces arrive to reinforce the host of Hithlum. Very shortly afterwards, the 'third hour,' Maedhros' forces attack Morgoth's army from the rear.
Later in the morning, perhaps 10:00 Morgoth looses his remaining strength. The sons of Ulfang turn on the Fëanorians, and Maedhros' forces are scattered. The last to stand firm are the Naugrim.
Later yet, probably early afternoon Gothmog's force comes between Fingon's army, and those of Turgon and the Men of Hador. Fingon is slain.
Probably mid-afternoon At Húrin's urging, Turgon and his army retreat, fighting their way southward. The men of Dor-Lómin remain as reargard. They eventually retreat to the stream of Rivil and make a final stand.
Late afternoon as the sun westered Huor falls, pierced by an arrow. Most of the Men are dead.
Nightfall Húrin is taken prisoner.

Notes on Dates and Times

All dates come from The War of the Jewels, HoME Vol 11, Part 1, The Grey Annals. All times are from The Silmarillion, Quenta Silmarillion, Ch 20, Of The Fifth Battle: Nirnaeth Arnoediad.

Midsummer's Day in Britain is June 24th, the Feast of St John, but I've also seen reference to the summer solstice, June 21. Given that Middle-earth doesn't have St John, but would observe astronomical events, I have used June 21 as the start date of the entire battle.


The Prelude

"In those days Maedhros son of Fëanor lifted up his heart, perceiving that Morgoth was not unassailable; for the deeds of Beren and Lúthien were sung in many songs throughout Beleriand. Yet Morgoth would destroy them all, one by one, if they could not again unite, and make new league and common council; and he began those counsels for the raising of the fortunes of the Eldar that are called the Union of Maedhros."

" But Maedhros made trial of his strength too soon, ere his plans were full-wrought; and though the Orcs were driven out of all the northward regions of Beleriand, and even Dorthonion was freed for a while, Morgoth was warned of the uprising of the Eldar and the Elf-friends, and took counsel against them. Many spies and workers of treason he sent forth among them, as he was the better able now to do, for the faithless Men of his secret allegiance were yet deep in the secrets of the sons of Fëanor."

The Silmarillion, Quenta Silmarillion, Ch 20, Of The Fifth Battle: Nirnaeth Arnoediad


The Battle

"… Maedhros … resolved to assault Angband from east and west; and he purposed to march with banners displayed in open force over Anfauglith. But when he had drawn forth, as he hoped, the armies of Morgoth in answer, then Fingon should issue forth from the passes of Hithlum; and thus they thought to take the might of Morgoth as between anvil and hammer, and break it to pieces..."

"… Maedhros was hindered in his setting-forth by the guile of Uldor the accursed, who deceived him with false warnings of assault from Angband."

"…And though the signal of the approach of Maedhros came not, and the host grew impatient, Húrin urged them still to await it, and to let the Orcs break themselves in assault upon the hills."

"But the Captain of Morgoth in the west had been commanded to draw out Fingon swiftly from his hills by whatever means he could. … the Captain of Morgoth sent out riders … With them they brought Gelmir son of Guilin … the heralds of Angband showed him forth…they hewed off Gelmir's hands and feet, and his head last, within sight of the Elves…"

"… the host of Hithlum leapt forth from the hills in sudden onslaught… so fell and swift was their onset that almost the designs of Morgoth went astray. … [the elves] burst through the Gate and slew the guards upon the very stairs of Angband, and Morgoth trembled upon his deep throne, … But they were trapped there, and all were slain save Gwindor… By many secret doors in Thangorodrim Morgoth had let issue forth his main host that he held in waiting, and Fingon was beaten back with great loss…"

"The host of Fingon retreated over the sands, …and … fell most of the Men of Brethil. … the Orcs surrounded the host of Hithlum…. In the morning … Turgon … marched up with the main host of Gondolin…"

"… the trumpets of Maedhros were heard at last coming up from the east... Some have said that even then the Eldar might have won the day… for the Orcs wavered, and their onslaught was stayed ... But … Morgoth loosed his last strength … and Glaurung … came between the hosts of Maedhros and Fingon and swept them apart."

"… In this hour the plots of Ulfang were revealed. … the sons of Ulfang went over suddenly to Morgoth and drove in upon the rear of the sons of Fëanor… new strength of evil Men came up that Uldor had summoned and kept hidden in the eastern hills, and the host of Maedhros was assailed now on three sides, and it broke, and was scattered, and fled this way and that. Yet fate saved the sons of Fëanor…"

" Last of all the eastern force to stand firm were the Dwarves of Belegost…"

"…in the western battle Fingon and Turgon were assailed by a tide of foes thrice greater than all the force that was left to them. Gothmog, Lord of Balrogs … drove a dark wedge between the Elvenhosts, surrounding King Fingon, and thrusting Turgon and Húrin aside towards the Fen of Serech. … Thus fell the High King of the Noldor…"

"…Turgon took the counsel of Húrin and Huor, and summoning all that remained of the host …and such of Fingon's people … he retreated towards the Pass of Sirion.. the Men of Dor-lómin held the rearguard…"

The Silmarillion, Quenta Silmarillion, Ch 20, Of The Fifth Battle: Nirnaeth Arnoediad


The Aftermath

"Great was the triumph of Morgoth, and his design was accomplished in a manner after his own heart; for Men took the lives of Men, and betrayed the Eldar, and fear and hatred were aroused among those that should have been united against him. From that day the hearts of the Elves were estranged from Men, save only those of the Three Houses of the Edain."

"The realm of Fingon was no more; and the sons of Fëanor wandered as leaves before the wind. Their arms were scattered, and their league broken; and they took to a wild and woodland life beneath the feet of Ered Lindon… In Brethil some few of the Haladin yet dwelt in the protection of their woods, and Handir son of Haldir was their lord; but to Hithlum came back never one of Fingon's host, nor any of the Men of Hador's house… Morgoth sent thither the Easterlings that had served him… to plunder and harass the old and the women and the children of Hador's people. The remnant of the Eldar of Hithlum were taken to the mines of the north and laboured there as thralls, save some that eluded him and escaped into the wilds and the mountains."

"The Orcs and the wolves went freely through all the North, and came ever further southward into Beleriand, even as far as Nantathren, the Land of Willows, and the borders of Ossiriand, and none were safe in field or wild. Doriath indeed remained, and the halls of Nargothrond were hidden… Many now fled to the Havens and took refuge behind Círdan's walls…"

"…thought of Morgoth dwelt ever upon Turgon; for Turgon had escaped him, of all his foes that one whom he most desired to take or to destroy..."

"…Morgoth cursed Húrin and Morwen and their offspring, and set a doom upon them of darkness and sorrow…"

"By the command of Morgoth the Orcs with great labour gathered all the bodies of those who had fallen in the great battle, and all their harness and weapons, and piled them in a great mound in the midst of Anfauglith; and it was like a hill that could be seen from afar. Haudh-en-Ndengin the Elves named it, the Hill of Slain, and Haudh-en-Nirnaeth, the Hill of Tears. But grass came there and grew again long and green upon that hill, alone in all the desert that Morgoth made; and no creature of Morgoth trod thereafter upon the earth beneath which the swords of the Eldar and the Edain crumbled into rust."


Etymology

AR(2)-. Q ara outside, beside; also prefix ar- as in Arvalin (= outside Valinor). In Q this is purely local in sense. Thus arnediad without reckoning, = numberless [NOT]. In this sense Q uses ava-, as avanote (see AWA). Hence Q ar and AS-AT-. Q asto dust; N ast.

NAY- lament. naeth (nakt-) 'biting' is associated in N with this stem, and gets senses of gnashing teeth in grief: cf. Nirnaeth Arnediad (or Aronoded) [NOT]. Q naire lament, naina- lament. N noer adj. sad, lamentable; nae alas, Q nai.

NEI- tear. Q nire, nie tear; cf. nieninqe snowdrop [NIK-W], Nienna. N nir tear, weeping; nirnaeth lamentation [NAY].

The Lost Road and Other Writings, HoME Vol 5, Part 3, The Etymologies

Contributors:
Lyllyn 2August03; reformatted, links added, and date corrected (see Notes under Timeline) 7Jan05

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